Not right now, honey. This has become my mothering motto, if you will. “Mommy, can you come outside and push me on the swing?” Not right now, honey, I’m cooking dinner. “Mommy, can you color a picture with me? “Not right now, honey, I have to fold the clothes. “Come look at this, bird, mommy.” Not right now, honey, I need to go to the bathroom. And so on. Surely, if I dropped everything at the very moment one of my children wanted something from me, I’d never get anything done. I’d be the monster version of the soccer mom – all about the kids all day long, hair in a messy bun, yoga pants, a cute little FUPA, and always ready to please. I wouldn’t be me at all. Not right now, honey, I’m trying to look presentable; I’m trying to keep myself in one piece.

In the mornings, my five-year old asks me to cut her hair. Not right now, honey, I have to get ready for work. My three-year old son asks me to put on SpongeBob. Not right now, honey, we have to leave soon. My one-year old cries, pouts, and pulls on my pant leg, because he wants me to pick him up and carry him around with me. Not right now, honey, I’ve got to finish my hair.

Not right now, honey is like saying, No, go away right now. I mean, gee whiz, I can’t always drop everything to do their “right nows.” Their demands can wait, or Daddy will pick up the slack.

I feel guilty because I’ve said it too much, but it’s been a long day at work and I want my wine and I want to space out around the house. I don’t want to play. I don’t want to give them a bath. At least, not right now. Not right now, honey, I’m too busy. I’ve got this dishtowel here. I have to talk to Daddy about something. I’m doing the grocery list. I need to polish the shoes. I have to vacuum—just look at that mess. I need to send some emails. I’m tired. I’m self-involved. I’m too busy keeping busy. Not right now, honey. I suck, and I’m sorry.

I don’t suck all the time. I do stuff with my kids. I tend to their needs. I take the time to listen, to talk, to color. But, you shouldn’t spoil them too much, they say. Besides, it’s good for them to not be spoiled. A good amount of ignoring is healthy. I want my children to be independent, creative, self-sufficient. If they rely on me all the time for all their needs and wants, then how are they learning to be any of those super important things?

They won’t remember, anyway. They’ll remember the birthday cakes and the Christmas trees, and they’ll know they were loved. They won’t remember all the times they felt annoyed after Mommy said, Not right now, honey, because their whole lives will be filled with annoyances. They will learn patience, absence, independence, and these attributes will become so natural they will forget how they acquired them. Because they are necessary. So, Not right now, I’m teaching you to be a human being. I may be cutting corners on these life lessons, but they need to figure it out on their own. No, honey, not right now, I’m justifying my lazy mothering habits.

Maybe, just maybe, I can give a bit more of my time. I could leave the laundry sitting in the dryer, address that email later. What would happen? If I do not pick up the toys or update the grocery list right away, will I fall apart? If I can’t watch the news, chat on Facebook, or polish my nails, will I not be me anymore? What if I could actually lighten up, leave the dishes, embrace a messy bun, grab my glass of wine, and say, Ok, honey, I’ll be right there.

Dana Verdino

Dana is an English Instructor and Writing Coach at Gaston College. She also writes fiction and creative nonfiction of which has been featured in various online and print publications, including: All Things Girl, Fiction at Work, The Fertile Source, Boston Literary Magazine, Camroc Press Review, and several anthologies. She is working (sort of) on a memoir. Dana lives in South Carolina with her husband and three children (and one on the way).